We have, thankfully and miraculously, survived Evelyn’s two week spring break. It has been a long two weeks, plagued by cold, rainy weather, snotty noses, vomiting and teething. After a few days away from the structure and stimulation of school, Evelyn started to seriously regress and fall back on a lot of old, negative behaviors. I am proud to say I have not dropped my toddler off at a fire station, nor have I been committed to a psych ward. However, I just might kiss the bus on Monday when it pulls up to the driveway.
At the end of this eternal spring “vacation”, I watch Adelle carefully hand Evelyn a pink plastic tea cup. Evelyn tosses it towards the ceiling, gleefully shouting, “Up high!” When the cup clanks back down to the floor, booth girls laugh hysterically. The baby delicately retrieves a yellow plastic banana with two fingers and gives it to Evelyn, who gives it the same treatment as the tea cup. I love hearing them laugh; it makes my heart soar. As a parent, there is no better sound than that of your child laughing joyfully – with one exception…
I still remember the first time with Brady, back when it was just me and my boy trying to fill this house with not much furniture, but a lot of love – making a home. I had just worked my fifth 12 hour shift of the week and I was mentally and physically drained. I made it home just in time to read him a story and tuck him into bed. I was already thinking about the ice cold beer waiting in my fridge as I kissed him goodnight and told him, “I love you.” As I stood to leave, he rolled over, snuggled down in the covers and simply said, “I love you, too, Mommy.” I was surprised by the tidal wave of emotion that struck me. When I became a parent and held Brady for the very first time, I felt love so powerful, so strong, that I thought it might break me. I spent the first weeks of his life consumed by the overwhelming love I had for him. When he verbalized his affection for me in the soft glow of his nightlight, the experience was equally moving. I was so affected by it that, even years later, I can recall every minute detail of that moment.
It occurs to me that Evelyn has never said, “I love you.” Evelyn probably can’t say, “I love you.” She started speaking last summer and, while she can say a lot of different words, she is just beginning to string together two word phrases. I am somewhat disheartened to think I may have to wait a long time to hear those words so dear to a parent’s heart.
I do know Evelyn loves me. Every time she wraps her little arms tight around my neck and buries her face in my shoulder or climbs in my lap with a book, she is declaring her devotion. Slobbery kisses and tiny hands patting me on the back are comforts given with true affection. With each treasured Goldfish cracker shoved towards my mouth, scribbled drawing thrust under my nose, and funny face made for my eyes only, she is clearly stating, “I love you!”
Possibly, if she already said those three little words, I would neglect to notice all the ways she shows me she loves me every day. I know when she does say it, I will appreciate it because she worked hard to form those words with her little mouth, but I don’t really need her to speak it for me to know it. I will probably remember every detail of the moment Evelyn vocalizes, “I love you,” but I will also remember these moments. As I reflect on them, I feel the same swell of emotion I felt years ago, tucking a small, messy-haired boy into bed.
I am pulled away from this thought by Evelyn. She has noticed she no longer holds my attention, and she thrusts one palm into the air. “Five!” she demands. I smack her raised hand with mine. A small smile creeps across her face as she lowers her hand and her voice and says, “Down loooow!” When I slap her palm again, she laughs loudly and reaches for a small purple plate in Adelle’s outstretched hand. Confident I am watching, she tosses it in the air and screams, “Up high!” Just like that, I stop feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I feel fortunate.